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Glee S05E03: "The Quarterback"


Admittedly, I was a little worried—okay, a lot worried—going into "The Quarterback." I was 90 percent sure that Glee wouldn't turn Cory Monteith's death into a pop-cover-laden circus, but then there was that pesky 10 percent that remembered hearing about the school shooting episode and thinking "they wouldn't dare eff that up," and then we got whatever "Shooting Star" was supposed to be. 

That said, Glee's creators and producers and writers clearly put a lot of thought and consideration into "The Quarterback," with the show itself acknowledging past sins through Sue, who stated that the best tribute to Finn would be "not making a self-serving spectacle of our own sadness"—something that Glee obviously tried very, very hard not to do. 

Personally, I agree with many of your sentiments in the early comments you've posted about this episode, especially that this isn't necessarily an episode that should be picked apart. That sentiment would probably be different for me if "The Quarterback" was actually terrible and tasteless, but it wasn't. It had its flaws, to be sure: By stating that Finn died three weeks before the events of the episode, the in-universe timeline was called into question. Was Finn already gone when everyone was dancing around to Beatlemania? 


The decision not to give Finn Hudson an official cause of death is also proving to be slightly divisive. This is where Kurt came in, picking up where Sue's fourth-wall acknowledgement left off, arguing that the most important thing about Finn (and Cory Monteith, by extension) isn't how he died, but how he lived and what he left behind. The explanation works for me, but it won't work for everyone, and that's fine. One of biggest strengths of "The Quarterback" was its focus on individual grief: Every single character who came to Finn's memorial service reacted his death differently. Everyone needed something different in order to move on. I don't need Finn Hudson to have a cause of death, but it's okay if you do. 


I don't want to rant about "The Quarterback" because it would feel like ranting about someone's funeral and that's tacky. We can certainly discuss "The Quarterback," though. The use of Rent's "Seasons of Love" initially had me cringing, but it worked well as an opening number, mirroring the song's role in the original musical pretty well. In the stage version of Rent, "Seasons of Love" is just kind of plunked there in the middle of the show, after intermission, and it's not entirely clear whether the actors are in-character, or whether it's just meant to be some sort of standalone performance—especially coming right from intermission. It forces the audience to pause and reflect on what happened in the first act (which is quite a lot) and prepare for the inevitability of the second act, which isn't exactly all rainbows and puppies. By featuring "Seasons of Love" and doing it in the very beginning of the episode, Glee forced itself, and its audience, to slow down, pay attention, think some thoughts. In the Rent musical, it's not entirely clear where "Seasons of Love" falls in the characters' timelines, and with that in mind, maybe Glee's fuzzy chronology regarding Finn's death was a little more deliberate.  


Individual responses to loss can also be kind of weird. Cue the Kurt-Santana-Puck-Schue battle over Finn's jacket and Puck's vandalism of Finn's memorial tree and, maybe, even Sue's utter refusal to "learn" from her mistreatment of Finn over the years and her regret that he died thinking she hated him. What lesson is there to learn? Be nice to other people? That doesn't change what happened to Finn or what Sue now has to live with. 

The grief we saw in "The Quarterback" was palpable to the point of being kind of uncomfortable. When a cast member dies during the run of his or her show, the lines between reality and fiction are momentarily blurred. While "The Quarterback" was, outwardly, a means to put the character of Finn to rest, the fact remains that the actors playing all of Finn's friends, were also Cory Monteith's friends, and it probably wasn't long before this episode was filmed that they buried their real friend and said goodbye for real. Television, by its very nature, isn't a "private" thing, yet "The Quarterback" felt intensely private, as though we were invited to share in a very important experience with a cast and crew who may otherwise have fought very hard to retain that privacy. 


In the past, I've accused Glee of taking itself too seriously at the wrong times and not seriously enough when storylines warrant it, and I'm reluctant to refer to Finn's death as a "storyline" because knowing Glee, when the show returns on November 7, it'll be like none of this never happened and maybe, maybe, that wouldn't be a bad thing. Who am I kidding, yes it would be. But this is one instance where Glee's inability to formulate a coherent message works in its favor. Sue postulated that maybe there's no message here, "maybe he's just gone," and with those words, Glee has managed to be so true to life, even in its infuriatingly unrealistic (at times) fantasy land, that all I can really say here is "well played, Glee.



MUSICAL NOTES

– Lea Michele's "Make You Feel My Love" was so amazing.

– Most of the original cast appeared regardless of their current status on the show, but there was no Quinn and no Brittany. Did you miss them?

– LOL @ the pamphlets Emma gave Tina. I think we needed that.


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/13/2014

Season 5 : Episode 20

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